Young Waco artists and musicians used to hang out at Beatnix coffee house before it closed its doors in 2012. KWBU’s Jill Ament says the former owners are trying to open back up – this time in the heart of Waco.
Back in 2005 Penney Hapenney felt Waco didn’t have a place where the community could come together – and really just hang out. So she started Beatnix with her mom and her ex-husband– originally just as a community coffee shop, but it soon turned into a popular meeting place for many local artists.
“When I opened the first Beatnix and the way people came together, especially artists, all these artists and musicians and writers and visual artists come in and start networking with each other," Hapenney said.
"And start telling each other, ‘Oh I’ve got a show over here and I’ve got a show over here,’ and I’m like there is a lot to do in Waco.”
The original Beatnix was located by MCC campus off of Lake Shore Drive. Penney says high gas prices in 2008 and the slow summer took their toll on the original establishment and they had to close.
“And we really had no intentions of reopening," Hapenney said. "I mean we had always wanted to but we just had no real plans on the books until the people who owned Brits Burger Barn called me up the day after Christmas in 2009 and said, 'Hey, I wanna move, you guys want the barn?' ”
Thus the second Beatnix – or Beta Beatnix as Hapenney calls it – came to fruition at 1700 Colcord Avenue.
“It was a struggle over there. Mainly because of the impression of the neighborhood. But it was a great neighborhood. Our neighbors supported us. Mission Waco supported us,” said Hapenney.
This gritty and often times odd -- but charming -- venue hosted nationally acclaimed bands like Hurray for the Riff Raff and Central Texas based Blue Bear -- which will be performing at this year’s Austin City Limits.
But 3-years later – Beatnix closed its doors again. Hapenney says the building’s structure wasn’t sound and they didn’t have central A/C and heating among other things…And she and her co-owner, Benn Stimmel, were pretty burnt out.
“We were just exhausted. We lived at Beatnix. Which is the plight of many small business owners. So we closed it that summer," Hapenney explained.
"Especially that summer where it was like 107 degrees every day. We were exhausted.”
But Hapenney says that time they didn’t want it to be closed for good. They really wanted to move downtown.
“Penney and Benn, who were involved with Beatnix, I’ve known them for quite some time,” said Beth Richards, a managing partner at Waco's CAST -- or Creative Art Studio and Theatre.
She says Hapenney and Stimmel started working part time at the CAST after it opened this past March.
“And that’s kind of when the conversation started about Beatnix," said Richards. "And how bad it was that it was gone and what we could do to maybe try and bring that Beatnix culture back to downtown Waco.”
In May CAST offered Beatnix the opportunity to re-open their doors in their building on Austin Avenue. Hapenney wanted to jump at the chance – but she wants to see if there is still support in Waco for Beatnix.
“I’ve learned my lessons from the last two Beatnix: both good and bad. So I want to test the waters," said Hapenney.
And that’s where the revival of Beatnix is currently at.
Hapenney and her partners can’t move forward until they can raise funds for licensing. They’ve started an IndieGoGo online fundraiser to help with expenses for extra construction, permit fees and equipment. The fundraiser started on July 30 and has already raised 10 percent of the $7,000 goal.
When asked why Hapenney wants another go at Beatnix…
"Every time I said, 'That's it, I'm done. I'm done. I want to sleep for a week. I'm done.' I would get a Facebook message from a high schooler saying, 'You saved my life. You gave my band a place to play. You made me feel accepted. You made me feel a part of a community.' And I'm like, 'Ooooh. I could do this for another day.' "
"Beatnix Blues" recorded at the the first Beatnix
"Overjoyed" by Victor Wooten/Covered by Canyon Kafer and recorded at the second Beatnix
"Look Out Mama" by Hooray for the Riff Raff